Local Pilots React to Medical Chopper Crash - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Local Pilots React to Medical Chopper Crash


Local MedForce pilots are sending their prayers to the victims of a deadly medical helicopter crash that happened on Monday night. Pilot Andy Olson and flight nurses Jim Dillow and Karen Hollis were killed around 8:30 after their chopper went down in a field near Rochelle, Illinois. They were on their way from the Rockford Memorial Hospital to pick up a patient in Mendota. The Rockford Memorial Hospital owns the chopper.

Meanwhile, here in our area the medical community is mourning the loss. Both Trinity and Genesis use air ambulances similar to the one that crashed on a daily basis. Workers there had a very heavy heart Tuesday night. For our local MedForce pilots the news is especially tough, because many of them have even met and worked with those who were killed.

 "I think they are very dedicated heroic people, and unfortunately our job is to go out and save lives and last night three of them were taken," said Kevin Takacs, CEO and President of MedForce.

Takacs has been flying medical helicopters for 18 years, and has spent the last 12 years running MedForce here in the Quad Cities. He says he and his crew have trained with the three people who were killed, and its heart wrenching to know they are gone.

"In this industry there is always that inherent risk, and when the notification came out...obviously it's a tragic day for the industry as a whole, but it hit kind of closer to home for us because this is a service that we interact with on a pretty regular basis."

He says while the cause of the crash is still unknown, moments like this remind him the importance of safety.

 "On a daily basis we do crew briefings, we do safety initiatives and things like that. So what we take back, is we inform our crews and we just emphasize the fact that safety comes first. We try to litigate and mitigate as many as those risk factors as we can."

Takacs says one way he has reduced risk factors is by upgrading all of his aircraft two years ago. The helicopters are equipped with state of the art technology, like night vision goggles. There is even a pilot at the dispatch center whose sole job is track the chopper.

"Our mission at the end of the day is to take off and come home alive. Going to be a tough thing to lay those crew members to rest."

Rockford Memorial Hospital says its helicopter had a perfect safety record before it crashed. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating what caused the crash. Once they determine what happened, the information will be sent to all other air ambulance services nationwide.

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